The COVID-19 outbreak has swept the globe, creating a wave of fear and uncertainty. In countries such as Italy, residents have been ordered to remain in lockdown and in others, such as the United States, many are voluntarily entering a state of self-isolation based on the strong recommendations of health officials. In central Indiana, life as we know it has suddenly taken a dramatic shift, and we are all scrambling to find some order in these times.
Although it’s imperative to remain cautious and practice social distancing, measures can be taken to reduce feelings of anxiety and for those at-risk, feelings of depression.
Why Social Distancing Is Necessary in Response to the Coronavirus — And What That Means for Mental Health
After the first case of the new coronavirus strain, COVID-19 was reported in the United States, reports of national infections began to trickle in. A couple of months later, cases spiked, showcasing an exponential curve.
While this is rather frightening, especially for high-risk individuals, the spread of the virus can be slowed by actively practicing social distancing.
This means that as a collective group, each individual needs to keep a physical distance between one another in order to minimize contact. For example, avoiding non-essential gatherings, avoiding handshakes, and limiting contact with people in general.
How Social Distancing Impacts Your Mental Health
Social distancing is a proven method to reduce the spread of highly contagious, respiratory infections in order to protect your physical health — but what about your mental health?
Asking the population to isolate themselves is not something that many easily cope with, particularly those who suffer from feelings of anxiety and depression. During the SARS epidemic, a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases found that of the quarantined individuals who were prone to a high prevalence of psychological distress, 28.9% showcased increased symptoms of PTSD and 31.2% experienced increased feelings of depression.
That is why it’s imperative to focus on things you love to do while establishing a greater sense of control over your schedule and immediate environment.
Related: Self-Care Tips for Coronavirus Anxiety
At-home exercise routines, meditation, effective food planning, and art therapy are all great ways to mitigate stress. However, there’s another way to protect your mental health.
It’s time to self-isolate with pets. After all, there’s a whole lot of animal love to go around.
The Relationship Between Pets and Positive Mental Health
Animal lovers rejoice — owning a pet is excellent for your mental health. Research has shown that the emotional bond that exists between a pet and their owner can be as intense and meaningful as many human relationships.
Due to COVID-19, animal shelters across the United States are calling out to citizens as many continue to close or operate with fewer staff members. The goal here is to get people to foster an animal temporarily while they await a more permanent home.
Of course, this will help reduce overcrowding in shelters and provide animals with a home, at least temporarily, but the effects can be much greater.
As reported in this large-scale study, after studying people with conditions such as bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD, and depression, it was found that pets offer feelings of stability and evoke meaning in one’s life.
Best Friends offers a searchable directory to find shelters and rescue groups in your area.
In addition to fostering, adopting, or spending more time with your current pet, if you’re aiming to better manage your mental health, here are some tips to assist you.
We’re here to support you during this time, so be sure to check out all related COVID resources!